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Ravisloe Country Club makes history with arboretum designation

Ravisloe Country Club is the world’s first golf course to be recognized as an arboretum. Bob Carpenter’s grandson’s baseball career helped make it so.

Carpenter, the general manager of Ravisloe, said going to his grandson’s ballgames often took him past the Morten Arboretum in Lisle.

“I kept saying to myself, ‘One of these days, I’ve got to call them and see what it takes to become an arboretum and is that something that is even feasible,” Carpenter said.

The tree-rich Ravisloe Country Club recently made history
by becoming the first golf course in the world to be recognized
by Arbnet as an accredited arboretum. (Provided photo)

One day, he called. It turned out Arbnet, a worldwide organization that offers credentials for arboreta, was interested in finding a golf course that qualified for the designation. An arboretum is a place that hosts a variety of trees and shrubs that can be enjoyed by the public and used for scientific and educational purposes.

Ravisloe earned a level one arboretum designation. To qualify, it had to have a plan in place for defining the purpose of and maintaining the arboretum. It had to have a minimum of 25 different varieties of trees or woody plants. It had to have a governing group to oversee the arboretum and volunteer or professional staff to manage it.

Ravisloe exceeded the tree requirements with more than 100 varieties and almost 3,000 cataloged trees, Carpenter said.

A level one arboretum also has to host at least one event each year to allow the public access to the arboretum.

This year, that opportunity will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24.

Carpenter said he contacted local schools to invite them to bring students to the course to learn about trees. He said he still fondly remembers collecting leaves when he was a kid, pasting them into a book, learning to identify trees by their leaves.

The club is also including the Homewood Science Center into the program. Anyone who donates $100 to the science center can have a plaque installed by one of the 45 new trees being planted this fall with a dedication to a person or group.

The open house will be an opportunity for local non-golfers to tour the course and enjoy the foliage.

“They can wander through the clubhouse, too, and see a piece of history,” Carpenter said. Last year, the course and 1917 clubhouse were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Carpenter was aided in building the application for arboretum status by the discovery of study of the course’s trees that was done in the 1980s. At that time, there were 2,200 trees on the property, all tagged and identified, with a status report on the condition of each tree.

The club adds between 30 and 50 new trees each year, he said. Tending the arboretum also involves removing a few trees that are at the end of their lives and trimming limbs that are dead or are encroaching on golfing.

“It was in Donald Ross’s design to have trees, but his philosophy is that they should not interfere with the golf game,” Carpenter said. “We made a concerted effort to cut down any tree or tree limb that hung over the vertical edge of the fairways.”

He said they also have to be aware of how tree shadows will fall and avoid casting shade on tees or greens.

There are 2,268 arboreta in 39 countries listed in the Arbnet register. There are 559 accredited arboreta in the world. The village of Homewood is also recognized by Arbnet as a level one arboretum.

Tree sculpture
Another tree-related attraction at Ravisloe is a chainsaw sculpture completed in May depicting legendary golf course designer Donald Ross.

The tree adjacent to the clubhouse was dying and was interfering with the roof of the pro shop. When he was the athletic director at Barrington High School, Carpenter had been involved in bringing a chainsaw artist to do a carving at the school, a process that fascinated the students. He thought that would be a good way to turn a dying tree into a new asset for the club.

He hired Bill Baker of Naperville to do the carving, which took about two weeks and was finished near the end of May.

“He just did an unbelievable job,” Carpenter said. “It was fun for the staff and golfers to watch the evolution of it. And what’s really neat is every morning the sun rises a course in the east and shines right on him.”

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